In 1986, Barbara Lowe won five games of Jeopardy! in a row, qualifying for the Tournament of Champions. But she didn’t appear in the tournament, and her games vanished from reruns of the show — only recently did Jeopardy! uber-fans recover and digitize the only known recordings of her episodes. In pop culture lore, Lowe became a villain: Rumors circulated that she had lied on her application for the show, violated contestant policies, and behaved badly on set. Claire McNear, who published a book about Jeopardy! in 2020, tracked Lowe down to try to get the bottom of what happened and found that the short answer might be, well, sexism:

In 1993, Harry Eisenberg, a writer turned producer during the first seven years of the Jeopardy! reboot, published a dishy account of his time at the program. Inside Jeopardy!: What Really Goes on at TV’s Top Quiz Show swiftly landed Eisenberg in hot water with his former employer, chiefly over his description of the show systematically altering game material to provide easier clues for female contestants — an act that would amount to a violation of fairness rules enshrined by the Federal Communications Commission in the wake of the 1950s quiz show scandals. Jeopardy! denied that the show did any such thing; a later edition of Eisenberg’s book dropped the claim.

But both versions of the book featured Eisenberg’s reflections on Lowe. Eisenberg radiated a strong dislike: Lowe, he wrote, “appeared rather strange” and prompted the most letters objecting to a contestant’s “mannerisms and behavior” that the show had ever received. Eisenberg described a fractious moment after Lowe rang in on a clue reading: “Sons of millionaires who killed Bobby Franks as a ‘scientific experiment.’”

“Her response was, ‘Who were Leopold and Leeb?’” Eisenberg wrote. “Alex ruled her incorrect, at which point she immediately shot back, ‘Leeb is just the German pronunciation of Loeb.’ Rather than get into an argument with her right in the middle of the show, Alex went ahead and gave it to her.”